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The following is the 'log' list for the Holiday Ale 2009.

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January 21, 2010 (10:09 AM)
Down to the last couple of these now, so it's a good time to look back at the brew.
 
The flavor is very good, though perhaps not as "holiday-ish" as some people would want. I could probably up the spice a little bit and still have it be fairly subtle.
 
This beer also suffers from what seems to be my chronic problem with head retention in beers I brew. While it's better than some of my beers, it still doesn't have that lacy, fluffy type of head that would look best on a holiday beer like this. I'll have to come up with some way to improve head retention next time.
 
Other than that, it turned out great I think. I could probably have used slightly less priming sugar, but it was only barely over-carbonated.
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November 23, 2009 (10:11 AM)
Tried these last night again, and I think they're perfectly aged now. Quite tasty, and definitely don't see any reason to modify the recipe any further in the future. The alcohol flavor is almost entirely masked, and it has a nice rich body and decent head. Good stuff.
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November 11, 2009 (3:29 PM)
I tasted one of these yesterday and it's definitely improving. However, not really done yet -- still needs to mellow a bit. I've put one in the fridge and then next week I'll chill another one and compare the cold-conditioned to the warm-conditioned, to see which improved faster. If it's the cold-conditioned, I'll probably throw a case in the fridge until Thanksgiving.
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November 3, 2009 (6:02 PM)
Gave this one an early taste a few days ago... definitely should let it wait longer. Was still a tad sweet and undercarbonated. Patience, grasshopper!
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October 15, 2009 (11:31 PM)
Just finished bottling the Holiday Ale -- ended up getting exactly 48 bottles. I gave it a taste, but I always have trouble gauging the flavors once the priming sugar has been added. I definitely didn't notice any off flavors, though.
 
Next entry won't be until I taste one -- I'm thinking thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to crack the first one for a taste (even though I plan to wait another month before really digging in).
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October 15, 2009 (2:34 PM)
I'm very disappointed with the attenuation of this beer. I was hoping it would have the relatively low attenuation that's typical of this yeast. Instead, it got down to 1.010 1.011 (adjusted for temperature)! I'm worried that it will have a drier taste than I was aiming for with this style. But at least at around 7.8% ABV, it packs a good punch.
 
On my way to the brew store to pick up a bag of bottle caps (realized I don't have enough to bottle the whole batch), along with the ingredients for the Mild Rye Ale, which I'll be fermenting directly on the Holiday Ale yeast cake.
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October 7, 2009 (10:45 PM)
Still no FG measurement. Since I haven't had time to bottle this beer yet, I didn't see any reason to open up the carboy and mix in oxygen & possibly microbes. Also, since a diacetyl rest is recommended, I decided there's no harm in letting the beer just sit for awhile after yeast activity seems to have halted. Right now it bubbles every 10 minutes or so -- I'm guessing mostly outgassing of CO2 dissolved in the beer from earlier fermentation.
 
Might be bottling tomorrow -- if not, probably by the weekend. I'm curious what the FG is, since the yeast is supposedly not that attenuative. Most of my recent beers reached such low FG that I'm almost forgetting what a nice hint of sweetness is like -- hopefully this one performs as advertised and leaves one.
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September 28, 2009 (10:41 PM)
Decided to take a couple shots of the fermenter to show the color and flocculation. I haven't disturbed the carboy in a few days and it's bubbling about 4 per minute, so I'm guessing it's still chugging away slowly but surely. Quite the yeast cake there on the bottom already, though!
 
      
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September 28, 2009 (2:45 PM)
After almost one week of rigorous fermentation, it's starting to settle down a bit (maybe 6-7 bubbles/min from the airlock). I was able to keep the temperature around 68-71, right where this strain supposedly performs best. I was tempted to let it rise to 73ish to bring out more fruity esters, but decided there were enough complex flavors in this beer already.
 
I've decided I'm not doing a secondary for this one, so I'm just going to let it sit in the primary for a few weeks. Once fermentation seems done, I'll post a FG measurement.
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September 22, 2009 (12:00 AM)
And the Holiday Ale is in the fermenter! I ended up also adding a little grated nutmeg to the spice mix, but otherwise didn't tweak it much. I'll update the recipe as soon as I get around to it.
 
OG is 1.070 or 1.071 (hard to get a good reading with the foaminess on the surface of the wort), so my efficiency was once again higher than expected. If the ProMash estimates are to be trusted, then my efficiency was about 81% this time.
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September 21, 2009 (12:00 AM)
I picked up the ingredients for my holiday ale today -- planning to brew it tomorrow! I did end up modifying last year's recipe (despite saying I didn't plan to), even though I don't think there was anything particularly wrong with it -- it just didn't wow me. I increased the 2-row from 58% of the grain bill to about 68%, and made the hop profile more minimalist. I also dropped the black patent malt and upped the chocolate malt instead. I tried to even out the spice flavors a little bit, increasing things that didn't seem to come through at all last time (like the cinnamon). My goal is still for the spices to be subtle to the point of being hardly more than an aftertaste.
 
Another big change this time around is that I'm reverting to a simpler mash schedule again, per the advice of Denny over on Northern Brewer forums. I'll post an update after it's in the primary tomorrow.
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